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I went to see "Manchester by the Sea" with a group of friends, not knowing anything about it. I didn't even know what film we would be seeing as I stepped up to the booth to order my ticket. I was just along for the ride with a group of women who usually choose good films. I am sure there will be Oscar buzz about this film, as it is the type of movie the Academy adores. It deals with very serious issues, and the actors, for nearly all of the film, are allowed to display their chops, portraying unfortunate souls filled with anguish and angst. Grief, and the inability to move on after death, are the major themes in this film. Casey Affleck (Ben's younger brother) gives a wonderful performance as a man who cannot move on. Affleck's character, Lee Chandler, is the most depressed person I have ever seen on film. His gloom wears on you as you watch the movie. I saw this film on a day when I was feeling blue. I do not recommend anyone else do the same. There are touches of humor in the film, particularly in scenes where Chandler is interacting with his 16-year-old nephew. Patrick, brilliantly portrayed by Lucas Hedges. The dialogue between these two is touching and real and occassionaly laugh-out-loud funny. But these light moments are few and far between, and are overwhelmed by the tragedy in the film. Affleck and Michelle Williams, who plays Lee Chandler's ex-wife, Randi, give moving performances as a couple badly damaged by the tragic twists and turns of life. But I fully expect the major buzz this award season to be focused on Hedges. This talented young man is a gifted actor who gave an award-worthy performance, scene after scene, in this film. If you love to watch good actors act, you probably will enjoy this film. I can't say that I recommend it, however. It was depressing and dragged in spots. The score is over the top. There is one particular scene, intended to tug on your heartstrings, where the soaring violins are so obnoxious, the music took my mind completely away from the story. Instead of being moved to tears, I was annoyed by the music and the producers' overwrought attempt to manipulate my emotions with it.
I would normally never watch a film such as "The Martian," (an implausible Hollywood blockbuster about a crazy thing), but a trusted friend saw it, and told me I might like it more than I'd think (actually, the exact words were, "The Martian was not a great film. But my expectations were very low, and it surpassed them. It was amusing escapism on a day when I really needed some"), so given that I like to remain at least somewhat in touch with popular culture, why not? Plus, I've liked Matt Damon ever since "Good Will Hunting," - an underachieving film that has an interesting premise, sort of like Patrick Swayze in "Roadhouse" (a black-belt "cooler" who drives a Mercedes 560SEC and has a degree in Philosophy?) Plus, sometimes you have to just enjoy cheap (actually, not-so-cheap) escapism for its own sake, you know what I mean? Some of these tidbits I got from, or was inspired by, Amazon X-Ray, so instead of citing each of them, I'll give a global citation here. I mention Amazon X-Ray in greater detail here. In the opening credits, the title "THE MARTIAN" slowly fades away, but the bottom part of the "T" in Martian lingers on the screen by itself for about one second, forming an "I." This is both similar to what happened in Alien (the letters fading), and obviously a foreshadowing of what is about to occur in the movie. The spaceship in The Martian is named Hermes, the Greek God of Scarves and Neckties, and also the Protector of Travelers. The Roman equivalent of Hermes is Mercury. The Latin name for Mark (Mark Watney is Matt Damon's character) is Marcus, which means, "of Mars." I have to admit that when Watney pulled the object out from inside of him (which I think might have been some vague tribute to the infamous scene in Ridley Scott's "Alien"), and was sitting in the chair, staring at the ceiling, with his predicament slowly dawning on him, and he said, "Fuck," I laughed out loud. So far (I'm writing this as I watch), I like the comic relief in this movie, e.g., when Mark threw up his arms in triumph while working with hydrazine. In the preview for The Martian, which I first saw many months before it was released, they used the eye-rolling line, "I'm going to have to science the shit out of this." That was so off-putting to me that it, alone, made me not want to see the film. In context of the movie, it was *still* an eye-rolling line - horrible - but not *as* bad as it was in the trailer, stripped of all context and previous events. These people know what they're doing: This line might have lost my demographic as a potential audience, but it probably gained ten-times as many people in other demographics. Okay, I'm an hour into this movie, with about eighty minutes remaining. I am predicting - but do not know - that Mark will be saved, because ... how can he *not* be? Hollywood is a mega-business, and a tragic ending would be bad for business (and it would have surely leaked out very early on). In an indie art film? Sure, but not here. No way. Just once, I'd love to see an ending like Tosca in a Hollywood nine-figure blockbuster, where the lead character drops dead right before the final curtain falls. It would make for better suspense going forward. As a final thought, I can see how watching The Martian would make the life of someone who is trapped in a prison, or a wheelchair, or a dungeon, or some other place of absolute solitude a little more bearable, giving them just an extra ounce of hope, knowing (or even fantasizing) that as long as you're still breathing, nothing is impossible. When I first saw the trailer for The Martian, I never dreamed that I would actually watch it, much less like it, but I liked The Martian a lot more than I thought I would.
I watched "The Departed" today, and while I loved the film, I'm a little surprised it won the 2007 Academy Award for Best Picture. It was an excellent, thrilling, double-twisting, head-scratching, mess-with-your-mind, crime thriller involving mirror-image good-and-evil juxtapositions that make you thankful you're watching it on video, since you're camped on the rewind button for half the movie. A great picture with mega, mega-stars? Yes! Best Picture of the year? Boy this must have been a very lean year, not that the Academy Awards are any arbiter of truth; still, I just don't see this as even being in the running, although the Academy has shocked me in the past with its mediocre winners. Don't get me wrong: It's an outstanding crime thriller which I really enjoyed; I'm just surprised so many critics thought so highly of it. How many films have you seen lately where Matt Damon is arguably the third-biggest draw, and where Alec Baldwin is perhaps the sixth-biggest? How much did they spend on salaries? I am very much in the minority in that I find Quentin Tarantino terribly overrated, and someone who relies far too much on excessive violence; this film clearly had a Tarantino-like influence over the far-superior Scorsese. Did he really need to make this such a bloodbath? Well, it added something, I suppose, and also like most audience members, I'm starting to become numb to gratuitous splatter films, so as long as movies aren't torture porn (and this didn't go that far) they've become socially accepted, and not even all that shocking which I think is a real shame.
To editor Pietro Scalia: "It's not your fault." (WARNING: NSFW!) Incoming letter from Miramax Films in 5 ... 4 ... 3 ....